Thursday, March 19, 2009


Tuesday, I know I was supposed to be getting drunk on green beer, but somehow I took myself to a Chanticleer concert instead.

They are definitely great singers, but their normal repertoire isn't really my cup of tea. But this time they were serving up a three-course meal of young (only 30!) composers. There were pieces by Tarik O'Regan and Shawn Crouch, and they were fine, but still not getting me all worked up. And then the piece I was waiting for, Sirens by Mason Bates.

I've heard his work before twice at the Cabrillo festival. (One I loved, and one I didn't.) Both of those pieces involved electronics and orchestra. This one was pure voices. And lovely it was. There were bits with clusters of close-spaced pitches, like Ligeti's Lux Aeterna, for example:

and pulsing bits that reminded me of Reich's Desert Music

Then the movement in the Quechua language came from some other place entirely, with maracas and a bit of extended vocal technique. Overall, it was most enjoyable and I hope they record it soon!

Although the first piece was entirely in English (with text by Samuel Becket), I couldn't understand a word when I wasn't looking at the program. It could have been in Martian. I did only a little better with the second piece. But Bates set his text so clearly that I had no trouble at all understanding the English parts, and for the parts in other languages I could at least tell which language it was in. (Except, naturally, Quechua.)

I thought I might be able to go to an SF Symphony concert this Friday combining a work by Bates with the Sibelius 4th (a nice pairing), but I'm confusing March and May again!

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